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Tardy seed planting  RSS feed

 
Posts: 221
Location: Dawson Creek, BC, Canada
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Most people on permies.com have much longer growing seasons than I do.  So I am often tardy because of that, and sometimes I go beyond that.

Lots of places have written that buckwheat can be planted "late" and still outgrow weeds.  Last year, the tallest any of my buckwheat got was 6 inches.  Coming up to end of July (planting a bit earlier), I've got some buckwheat at 2 inches.  I had some buckwheat germinate in wood chips, but it took a while.  Sorrel doesn't seem to want to germinate in wood chips, or in a thin layer of compost on top of wood chips.  I have a large raised bed I cannot reach across (it is 15x24), and so to reach some places in the centre, I tossed some sunflower seeds (the corn had died in the wind, and it was my first 3 sisters attempt).  I have sunflower germinating all over the raised bed, even "upwind" of where I through them.  So, it doesn't appear you actually need to "plant" sunflower seeds.  I suspect birds are moving the seeds upwind?  Can't be bambi.

In the spirit of the Eden garden, on some old fescue pasture (a place heavy in quack grass), last summer I covered (uncut pasture) from about now to end of season in black plastic (actually, plastic not removed to this spring).  This spring I put about 3 inches of wood chips on top of the (not quite dead pasture), and then I built a raised bed from aspen logs I split in half.  Within the raised bed, I spread a layer of "soil" that probably was between 0.5 and 1 inch deep.  Into this "soil", I placed pieces of seed potato.  And then I covered this with 5 inches of wood chips.  The location of this raised bed is about as "wet" as any place on the farm (being on the eastern slopes of the Rockies, we average 19 inches of precip per year).  I've got lots of little (tallest maybe 7 inches) "potato trees" all over this raised bed.  But none of these plants look like potato plants I've seen when people planted in dirt.  It will be interesting to see what happens.

Because my growing season is short at best, I had started the corn (Stowells Evergreen) and sunflowers (various) in pots.  At best, I did not harden off these plants well enough, before planting them.  The sunflowers were all too floppy, and the corn plants couldn't handle the wind (of 76 corn plants, I might have 6 still growing, biggest about 6 leaf stage).  I planted squash around the corn plot, and zucchini around the sunflower plots.  Some of the squash seeds had been given a warm water soak, and few if any of those germinated.

Which leads me into tree seeds.  I had bought a reasonably large (2litre?) ultrasound unit, probably meant for a dental office?  It can irradiate things with ultrasound for varying lengths of times, which mostly tend to be multiples of 3 minutes.  It does have a heater for the bath, and it will heat water to whatever temperature you like, as long as it is 65C.  So the warm water soak the squash seeds got, was at 65C.

I am not close to being finished planting out seeds (I am tardy), I am over 10%.  All these seeds in question, have spent the last N months damp, in the fridge.  Among the seeds, are a birch hybrid and gray alder (also in the birch family).  These are tiny seeds, and hard to work with in bags.  And the paper towel I often wrapped the seeds in, had about the strength of toilet paper after this time, so even seeds that were larger than birch seeds, often could not be differentiated from the paper, or from soil in the bag meant to buffer moisture.  If the seeds were just in paper towel, I would put some moist soil in a mixing container, add some dry soil, and then add the seeds I managed to collect from the bag and off the paper towel..  I then mixed the seeds with the slightly dried (from mixing dry soil with moist soil) soil, and then I would spread this on an area of moist soil in a "tray", and sort of mix it in and sort of level it.  This soil is VERY fluffy.

If the bag of seeds had a soil buffer in it, I would put the soil buffer in the mixing container, tear up the paper towel and attached soil into small pieces, add that to the buffer soil, mix it, add dry soil, and mix some more.  And then spread that onto moist soil in a tray, mix it with the surface soil and level it (sort of).  Again fluffy.

In handling slightly larger seeds (maybe the size of seeds in a chili), I sometimes found that to touch the seed was to smear it to nothing.  No apparent sign of mold, so I am guessing the plant had rotted with no soil present.

The largest seeds I put to stratification/scarification, were from Kentucky Coffee Tree.  Probably the warmest zone seeds I had prepared, and really I don't think they would either live here, or would be useful here.  My Mom likes coffee, and maybe I could make her a special coffee in 20 years or so.    Big seeds.  First step was to soak them in warm (my usound bath is 65C) water.  Some seeds swole up.  Soak the ones that didn't again.  Again some swole up.  This soaking often cracked the seed coat, and in a couple of occasions the hard seed coat just fell of the "kernel".

The ones that swole up and the ones that didn't, were both put in the fridge for months.  The ones that had swole up, continued to swell while in the fridge.  As a first approximation, the swole into a continuous mass in the bottom of my container (which had soil, because the seeds were so large).  To me, it looks like there was some "white mold" almost everywhere.  I suspect none of those seeds are viable, but they are so much bigger than anything I've worked with.  I did plant some unswollen seeds and the best of the swolen ones into soil, and I'll see what happens germination wise.

Russian hawthorn seeds much bigger than English hawthorn seeds.  Manchurian vibernum seeds were too small.  Elderberry seeds were too small.  Blue and white false indigo seeds were too small.

---

With so many tree seeds being so small, how is someone with big fingers supposed to work with these things?  I know when I first seen paper tape for things like onion seeds, I thought that was a wonderful idea.

---

Yet to come in my seed planting, is two kinds of pine seeds (both large, edible nuts), a bunch of osage-orange and a bunch of honey locust.  The pine seeds are either Korean or Swiss stone.  As I understand both of these pines need to be germinated and grown in shade for 2 years (possibly longer).  They sunburn easily.  I have 5 or 6 rows of evergreens growing next to the house, so I was going to put the pine seeds there to spends most of their early life shaded.  I have more Swiss stone pine seeds left, and I was going to just pot up some and put them out as well.  As I understand, they could take a winter or two to get to the germination stage.

---

This is the end of July.  August usually becomes very dry.  A killing frost (for vegetables) could be just about anytime from the end of August, but mid-September on is more likely.  Halloween usually sees snow.  And freeze up in October is typical.

My soil is mostly clay.

As i understand things, I can overwinter seedlings.  Most people would overwinter by digging a trench, setting the trays in the trench, and then "sort of" filling with sand?  I had thought about insulating with styrofoam insulation, but I have so many mule deer and especially moose walking through my yard in the winter, if I put down foam insulation that would mean putting plywood on top of that to keep the deer from breaking through when they walk on it.

I could order a dump truck full of sand.  That would probably be enough to  "bury" the seedlings in sand.  And I could use the sand in the future (not that I want to get into tilling stuff into the soil).

Hopefully you don't get as tardy as I have. 

As Spock was heard to say on some unknown Star Trek episode: "May all your deer problems, be 'small deer' problems (like whtetail deer)".
 
garden master
Posts: 4783
Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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In most places with such a short growing season, green houses are used to start the plants which are then planted out as soon as the weather patterns allow.

I'm interested in your "swollen seeds" that you then stratified, that is not the normal method for stratifying seeds and I would love to know if that method works for you.

I know a few folks in Alaska that make heavy use of row covers that are more like heat mats since they have a black side that these folks lay out to the sun to heat the soil beneath.
They plant their seeds, lay out the black row covers (these are non-woven breathable fabric) and they then remove these covers when the conditions have gone past last frost.

I love the idea of your experiments and do hope you keep us informed of how things work out for you.
 
Gordon Haverland
Posts: 221
Location: Dawson Creek, BC, Canada
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I have an ultrasound units (2 litre, 2.5 lityre?) that can heat the bath to 65C.  Some seed preparation talked about pouring hot water on and soaking for a day.  For some of my seeds, I have soaking time of 30 minutes or so at  65C.  Some of that time, I may also have the ultrasound on.

I had 3 treatment groups of blue false indigo.  Two were ultrasound and some time in 65C soak, and before putting into cold stratification, they got a brief soak in 50% EtOH (Smirnoff Blue).  The one treatment group was 3 minutes of ultrasound and the other was 6 minutes.  Both of those treatment groups have germinated in large part, and I am going to move the seedlings from the tray into 3 or 4 inch pots.  Use one or two spoons to scoop them out?  They had only been out of cold stratification 5 or 6 days I think, so it didn't take them long.

But my thinking about ultrasound, is that it could act like scarification, and damage that hard outer covering to let water in.  In terms of sonochemstry, I don't know if my system has enough power for the cavitation events to be driving chemical reactions at elevated temperatures.

 
Gordon Haverland
Posts: 221
Location: Dawson Creek, BC, Canada
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My reasoning for soaking seeds in 50% EtOH after any other seed treatments was two-fold:
* It sterilizes the surface of the seed, reducing mold problems.
* It may dissolve seed constituents (Abscissic acid?) that inhibit germination.

Some of my seed treatments involve soaking seeds in GA-3 (gibberlic acid - 3rd version).  This is a "hormone" that JLHudson (and others) sells, which has some action on germination, but there is not enough data to say what it should and should not be used for.  It has been used in the fruit industry for effects that have nothing to do with germination.

This ultrasound unit I bought (AliExpress?  I don't think it was BangGood) I believe is meant for dental offices.  They must have a reason for 65C.  I think I showed myself that 65C is not a good temperature to soak squash seeds this year.

I don't think the ultrasound unit has enough power for some things that ultrasound can do (specifically sonochemistry related). All of my treatments were in small PE bags, and PE has different elastic constants than water, and so you reflect energy off the outside and inside surface of the bag.  What frequency of ultrasound to use?  How much ultrasound power to use?  This unit I have cannot be used to investigate either.  At some point, I think I will need to start building my own ultrasound units so as to be able to control power and temperature, and maybe have multiple frequencies available.

But to damage the surface of a hard seed coat by cavitation, seems to me to be similar to the damage a seed coat would see from being stepped on (ground into sand for example) or from local surface attack by bacteria or fungi.

Do we want to add solutes to the water in the sample bags?  More than one treatment?

----

The only type of seed I had in large number, was osage-orange.  And I have not yet seen if I screwed up it's cold stratification because it was so many more seeds than anything else.  I now have a similar number of honey locust seeds, which apparently only needs "trivial" preparation for seeding.

----

The next biggest seed I had in number was Swiss stone pine, and I am just starting to process that seed.  It is a slow growing pine with human edible pine nuts, that needs to stay out of direct sunlight for at least 1 year (2? 3? more?) before getting to its final planting location.  Do I need fungi to grow it?  I also have a smaller amount of Korean pine, which is similar in that it wants shade at the beginning and forms a human edible pine nut.  But I gather Korean pine grows quite a bit faster than Swiss stone pine.  Are either susceptible to the mountain pine beetle which has escaped BC and made it out to the Canadian Prairies?

 
Gordon Haverland
Posts: 221
Location: Dawson Creek, BC, Canada
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I am going to suggest that wrapping seed in paper towel, and then placing them next of a buffer of soil to stay moist, is not a good choice.  The paper towel does not have enough durability.  And I suspect even if one went to paper towels meant for the shop, they still won't stand up to

So, what does a person wrap seed in, to place next to moist soil to buffer moisture levels in stratification?  Cotton?  Linen?  Something else?

But if whatever you wrap them in, has no ability to separate them from the soil at the end of stratification, it is not helping.

 
Gordon Haverland
Posts: 221
Location: Dawson Creek, BC, Canada
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First bag of Swiss stone pine.  About a sandwich sized ziploc bag, and I had just shy of 20grams of seed in there.  Each seed is abotu 1/3 gram, so I was guessing there were about 60 seeds.  The seeds were in paper towel, and the towel was useless.

The seeds started as a medium brown, but the soil I think had charcoal in it (so that it appears black).  Well after months in the refrigerator, all the seeds are now black.

I manually separated the seeds from the soil, and I count 67.  So, that's about what it should be.  These seeds will stay in the garage for germination, as the seedlings are easily sunburned from what I read.  (Same for Korean pine, which are larger seeds.).

Hopefully a tray of about 1.5-2 square feet is big enough for this many seeds.  I'm trying for 1 seed depth deep.
 
Bryant RedHawk
garden master
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Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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The traditional material for seed germinating is called blotter, it is the same stuff you use on your desk to write on and is available at most office supply stores.
This is very heavy paper and it will hold up to multiple uses for seed germination (one or two sheets under and one or two sheets over (unless you have a germination cabinet in which case you just use one sheet under and one over).

The easy way to germinate osage orange is to cut the "orange" into four pieces, dig a trench where you want them to grow and toss the quarters in and cover with soil. So this in the early fall, the next spring they will be sprouting.

To properly stratify seeds use buckets filled with sand, the seeds go into the sand you do not want to add water, you are giving them a cold treatment not sprouting them.

 
Gordon Haverland
Posts: 221
Location: Dawson Creek, BC, Canada
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Well, I guess I messed up on stratification.  I used slightly damp soil.

The last place I lived, the soil was mostly sand.  Here, the soil is mostly clay (former glacial lake bed).

I put a few inches of soil in my tray, and then covered that soil with the soil that I used in stratifying.  I had found 67 seeds.  On looking at the tray, I found another 3 seeds (70 now).  I wonder how many more might "pop up"?

I'll have to look for blotter paper next time.

 
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